Robert Jackman

Can In the Heights compete with these classic film musicals?

Can In the Heights compete with these classic film musicals?
Image: Warner Bros
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Musical fans will be hyped for the film release of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s In The Heights, set to land in cinemas here on 25 June (seven years after its UK stage premiere at the lovely Southwark Playhouse).

Of course the Dominican smash is far from the first big musical to make its way to Hollywood. Here are seven other classics - and one notorious flop - to enjoy:

Chicago, Amazon (to rent)

Rapidly approaching the 50th (!) anniversary of its stage premiere, the Oscar-winning crime caper has lost none of its pizzazz. And looking at the cast it’s not hard to see why. A pinstripe-clad Richard Gere as a sleazy lawyer, Catherine Zeta-Jones as a quick-witted and caustic showgirl, and Renée Zellweger as the infamous Roxie - the spurned housewife turned murderess. Every now and then comes a film that just manages to bottle that infectious Broadway glitz for home-viewing. Chicago is one of them.

Hamilton, Disney+

Surely the most successful stage production of the last decade, Lin Manuel-Miranda’s career-defining smash looked destined for the big screen right from its first curtain call. Filmed live on Broadway, this Disney production was originally scheduled for release this autumn but ended up being fast-tracked when much of the world became stuck at home with lockdowns. As you might expect, it soon became the most streamed film of 2020 - thus ensuring the period’s cultural output will be remembered for something other than Tiger King.

The Music Man, Amazon (to rent)

This glam adaptation of a 1957 Broadway smash might not be amongst the very best known of the 20th century musicals, but it probably deserves to be. Heralded in its day as a masterpiece (and since preserved in the Congressional library), the film served as the inspiration for Conan O’Brien’s superlative Marge vs the Monorail, starring, as it does, a straw-hat-wearing conman who travels from town-to-town trying to part the locals from their municipal coffers. It’s a barnstorming film, which won’t fail to charm your socks off within minutes of you pressing play.

Mamma Mia! Netflix

Love it or hate it, the West End owes a fair bit to Mamma Mia! - its most successful jukebox musical and seventh-longest running show of all time (due to overtake Cats, which closed in 2002, for sixth place before long). The film adaptation is, of course, every bit as chintzy and camp as its stage sibling - just with more A-listers attached. Perhaps unsurprisingly it’s also become somewhat of an institution itself. Not only as a staple of the Christmas television schedules, but also birthing an equally successful follow-up. The latter makes Mamma Mia! the first West End show since Phantom of the Opera to spawn a sequel.

Cabaret, Amazon (to rent)

Who says every hit musical has to end in a big smooch or something equally saccharine? Cabaret is a show that breaks the mould, ending instead with a nasty run-in with some brutish foot-soldiers of the Third Reich. Still, that didn’t stop it becoming one of the most beloved musicals of all time, and, in its film form, perhaps the most iconic outing for Liza Minelli. Fans will be delighted to hear the stage show is set to return to the West End later this year - taking place in a pop-up version of the Kit Kat Club, with Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley at the helm.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Amazon (to rent)

Both outrageous and poignant in equal parts, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is unlike any other musical you’ve seen. The story of a gender-bending East German teenager whose songs are stolen by her rock-star ex-boyfriend, the original show became a word-of-mouth sensation in late 90s New York, with its creator and star, John Cameron Mitchell, soon bombarded with approaches from film types. Unfortunately the film suffered a hammer-blow of bad luck, being scheduled for release on 12 September 2001. After sinking at the box office, it has since gone on to get the love it deserves.

Cats, Sky Go/Now TV

Few modern films have made a splash like Cats - and not in a good way. From the moment its ludicrous trailer dropped online, this big-spending remake of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical had critics sharpening their pencils in anticipation. And the finished product did not disappoint. Ridiculous as it might be, the film goes some way to proving one of my own theories: that what passes for fabulous in the high-stimulus environment of a crowded theatre will often look plain ghastly in the cold light of day. Prepare to cringe hard at this one.

Little Shop of Horrors, Amazon (to rent)

As any theatre-goer knows, many of the best shows begin their life elsewhere - the so-called ‘off-Broadway’/'off-West End’ theatres - before going on to conquer the commercial venues. Little Shop of Horrors is the perfect example: the cult musical that went from playing tiny workshop venues to embarking on sell-out tours both sides of the Atlantic. This 1986 film - which stars Rick Moranis alongside former nightclub singer Ellen Greene - is the percent encapsulation of its anarchic charm. Jim Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Guest and Bill Murray all make special appearances too.